Although there are all kinds of creative ways to find your signature scent—even by forgoing fragrance altogether—none is as indulgent or intimate as making your own bespoke fragrance. Perfume provides a unique sensorial experience for the wearer—especially perfume oils—which have a luxe skin feel. And because perfume oils don’t contain alcohol, they melt into your skin and take longer to evaporate than traditionally manufactured cologne. Their velvety texture deepens throughout the day as it lingers on your skin’s surface.
Made from natural plant-derived essences, perfume oils have a highly concentrated scent and are free from synthetic preservatives. According to perfume expert Jeff Smith, blending earthy, citrus, and floral notes, DIY perfume oils don’t require a degree in chemistry—all you need is a bit of imagination and a taste for opulence. Read on to learn exactly how to make perfume with essential oils.
Meet the Expert
Jeff Smith is a perfumer and founder of the small-batch perfume oil company Petite Histoire. He is based in New York City.
Research Your Ingredients
There are a couple of precautions when making your own perfume oils, especially when working with plant-derived essences which can be very powerful. According to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), essential oils can be sensitizing or irritating if used incorrectly, so it’s important to stick to the ratios provided in the below recipe. Plus, some citrus essences like lime oil cause photosensitivity, so always research your ingredients. Just because an ingredient is natural doesn’t mean it’s harmless.
Learn the Composition of a Scent
You should also understand the basic composition of a scent. Perfume oils are made up of head, heart, and base notes. Smith explains, “Head notes are the first notes that you smell. Although there are no hard-set rules, these can be dominant for about 15 minutes. Heart notes are what carry the perfume the most, and these are most obvious for roughly 15 to 45 minutes. Base notes are the most durable of the notes and give your scent longevity. Without base notes, your scent can fade. Base notes can last for hours.”
Choose Your Perfume Oils
Although how you blend scents is totally up to you, there are a couple of aromatic guidelines to keep in mind: Citrus notes are the most common head notes as they’re potent and assertive; florals usually make up the heart notes as they’re lighter and airy, and woodsy scents are ideal for base notes. (A sample blend would be something like bergamot, jasmine, and sandalwood). Here are further suggestions:
Woody scent: Smith says cedarwood and labdanum are your best bets. “I like pairing these with something brighter and crisper like cognac extract, which isn’t too sweet.” Other woodsy scents include pine and sandalwood.
Musky scent: Musk notes are historically derived from animals, however, there are some botanical options. “Ambrette is the closest to a botanical musk I’ve found,” says Smith. Try blending with a white rose, or a cedarwood for balance. Vetiver is another earthy musk to explore for a depth of scent.
Citrus scent: Bergamot, lemon, and grapefruit are some citrus fragrances that are especially on-trend this season. These are strong, crisp, and revitalizing.
Herbal scent: Lavender, chamomile, and rosemary are grounding herbal essences that tend to be lighter.
Floral scent: “Florals are the heart song of essential oils and natural raw materials, and this is where you can have the most fun,” says Smith. Rose, geranium, iris, and jasmine are some of the most popular florals, as are magnolia, peony, and ylang-ylang.
Smith says less is more when it comes to florals and suggests you pick a dominant floral and build around it with “surrounding foliage.”
Gather the Right Materials
Creating your own perfume will require the following ingredients and materials:
- 1 5 ml (0.2 fl oz) rollerball bottle
- 3 essential oils: head, heart, and base
- 4 pipettes or glass droppers: one for each essential oil and one for the carrier oil
- Unscented carrier oil, like jojoba or almond oil
Smith recommends using no more than a 20% concentration of essential oils in your carrier, just to be on the safe side. Every milliliter of liquid is roughly 20 drops with a pipette or glass dropper—so for a 5 ml bottle, you’re going to account for 100 drops of liquid. And in case you want to recreate your scent later, don't forget to record your custom recipe.
In short, to make one signature perfume oil, you'll need:
- 80 drops of carrier oil
- 20 drops of essential oil blend (10 drops base: 5 drops head: 5 drops heart)
If you have sensitive skin, err on the side of caution and use a lower concentration of essential oils, up to about 15%.
Once you have your ingredients ready, follow these five simple steps:
- Add 80 drops of carrier oil to the perfume bottle.
- With a dropper, add in 10 drops of the essential oil base notes, followed by 5 drops of head note, and 5 drops of heart notes.
- Seal the bottle and shake well (and again before each use).
- Label your creation.
- Store in a cool, dark place.
How to Apply
Depending on your bottle of choice, you'll either apply your perfume by rolling on or spraying. Apply behind your ear, on your collarbone, and chest to help diffuse the scent. Smith suggests dabbing perfume oils on the tops of arms, and avoiding the wrists, which have more blood flow and evaporates the scent quicker. The nape of the neck is another spot for perfume oils to make a lasting impact. DIY perfume oils are the ultimate skin elixir, offering a silky skin-feel, staying power, and an intensity that builds throughout the day, as opposed to a one-note fragrance.